Any person who has ever held a job also has experienced work-related stress, emotional vulnerability, even burnout. Even if one loves the job, in our modern times, stress finds its way on the job description.
Most people instinctively find ways to manage the pressure of life. However, stress can become chronic. When it happens, it can lead to serious consequences, both physical (headaches, digestive problems, blood pressure rise, weaker immune system, etc.) and psychological (insomnia, anxiety, irritability, cognitive difficulties, fatigue, emotional detachment, and more).
One might think that in some professions, generous paychecks and job benefits can compensate for the high levels of stress associated with them. As a hospital gynecologist, I hear this quite often. The average annual gynecologist salary is one of the largest ones in the healthcare industry.
Therefore, even if the job is hard, I should be able to cope better than others do. The truth is gynecologists present some of the highest levels of burnout, exhaustion, depression, and emotional detachment in the healthcare industry.
How do I cope with the everyday burden coming with the job? Over the years, I learned a few methods that work in making stress disappear both at work and at home. I want to share them with everybody who feels that sometimes, some things are simply too much to handle.
1. The One-Minute Exercise
We all have a minute to spare, and I learned to spend one minute of free time, whenever I get it during a shift, by exercising. For some, it may sound bogus, but the method comes from doctors interested more in a boost of happiness rather than fitness. During this highly intense minute of exercise, I climb a few flights of stairs or perform three 20-seconds cardio routines (squats and stretching for instance).
This form of exercise boosts your cardio and insulin, pumps up a little adrenaline and endorphins, and clears your head. Exercise is an almost instant mood enhancer. If you can spare one minute (you can try three minutes, to warm up and cool down as well) in between two work activities or while at home, you will offer your body and your mind the right tools to better cope with everyday stress. (See also: Stress Management Techniques You Should Know About)
2. Deep Breathing
“Take a deep breath” is a staple of my profession and if it works for the delivering mom, it works for her doctor as well. More than a cliché, deep breathing has physical benefits for our hearts, lungs, and brains. Find a few minutes to sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, your back straight, and your hands naturally resting on your knees.
Close your eyes and breathe deeply (counting to three on each inhales and each exhales). Focus on the feeling of your lungs filling up with air, trying to empty your mind. It is a simple exercise used in yoga, meditation, and autogenous training.
You can find three minutes during a busy day between two surgeries to breathe or climb some stairs, but these are quick fixes, which help you stay in shape and do your job. Meditation, on the other hand, is something you need to embrace in the comfort of your home. I do it at least two-three times a day to regain mental balance and filter everything that is going on in my life, both personally and professionally.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to meditation, nor the perfect, infallible recipe. You need to find your own pace, technique, and so on.
Once you become more and more comfortable with your meditation system, use meditation to clear your head and boost self-confidence and mindfulness. I sometimes meditate for five minutes, other times for a full hour.
Yoga is an excellent combination of physical exercise and correct breathing. The beauty of yoga is that it is extremely versatile. There are a few anti-stress yoga poses, which you can do in the middle of the day in your office with no problems.
I prefer some morning yoga poses for energy – when I get the time – and some evening poses for relaxation and good sleep (again, when I get the time). However, I try to keep yoga a constant in my life and practice at least three times a week. It keeps your body fit and your brain in good shape.
The Bridge Pose is easy to do on any flat surface. It helps you stretch your back and legs, works on your spine, and lowers high blood pressure. Try it a few times, see how you feel! (See also: How to Use Yoga and Meditation to Overcome Depression and Anxiety)
I very much enjoy the effects of music as mood enhancers. While as a doctor you cannot wear headphones in an OR, you can still play your favorite song while you sit in line for coffee, for instance, when you go to the toilet when you take your lunch break, and so on. Listening to music is soothing and uplifting for most people. Some feel calm, some get an energy boost, but they all feel relieved.
As I teach new mothers to play music for their babies in the womb, I remember that sound can have the most miraculous effects on our brains. Doing house chores while listening to music, going for a run while listening to music and so on can release stress in the long term.
6. “Me Time”
Doctors know some luxuries are rare for them, but when they meet them, they appreciate them to the fullest. I am talking about vacations, long hours of sleep, perfect personal lives, and so on. The “me time” may not translate into disappearing in the mountains for two weeks for a full system reboot, but it can and should translate into self-pampering, self-care, entertainment, and unwinding.
It means going to the pool for a swim if you love swimming or binge-watching your favorite TV show if this is what makes you happy. It is about a hobby, a guilty pleasure, a quick nap, a massage, and so on. Psychologists emphasize the importance of taking at least a few minutes a day for yourself, even if you are in the on-call room.
Your “you time” can be anything from doodling on napkins in the cafeteria to adult coloring books in the office, walking the dog, taking a long hot bath, offering yourself a treat, and so on. I, for one, prefer reading fiction books.
7. Find the Laugh
Technology is a tool we can use to relieve stress during chaotic days or tension-high moments. You surely have a smartphone with you at work or nearby at home. If you can find ten minutes to get a good laugh every day, you will soon learn that this practice is better and healthier than many antidepressants out there.
The idea is to trick your brain into happiness, even if you are nowhere near the concept. Laughter makes your brain believe you are happy. In turn, it releases plenty of good chemicals, which make you happy and, most importantly, relieve stress and even physical pain.
Therefore, if you have five-ten minutes to spare, play a cute, fun game on your smartphone or watch your favorite stand-up comedy sketch during the coffee break. I, for one, am a big fan of intelligent smartphone games.
What are your stress relievers? How do you unwind, clear your head, pump up some good mood to make fatigue or grumpiness disappear?
About the author:
Jennifer Clarke, a financial advisor with almost 4 years experience in the field, is an editor of HealthCareSalariesGuide, a website which aims to be the go-to place where people can find trustful data about the healthcare industry.